By sperm donation we mean the use of donor sperm instead of the husband’s reproductive cells. This means the man who is about to bring the child up and become the legal parent is not the same person as the biological father.
All aspects related to assisted reproductive technology (ART), including sperm cell donation, are regulated by the Law 86/12. There, one can find a provision according to which only heterosexual couples are allowed to undergo fertility treatments, turning it into an essential requirement if donor sperm is to be used.
In Croatia, single women and lesbian couples are not allowed to become mothers through assisted reproduction. This means treatments like artificial insemination by donor (AID), in vitro fertilization (IVF), or reciprocal IVF are not available for them.
Fertility treatments with donor sperm
The reasons why patients may need to use donor sperm instead of the partner’s own sperm are the following:
- Presence of genetic diseases
- Production of poor-quality sperm
- Zero sperm count
Both intrauterine insemination (IUI) and IVF are the treatments of choice when donor sperm is used. In accordance with the Croatian Law, double-donor IVF is forbidden, an alternative in which both donor eggs and donor sperm are used.
IUI consists in inserting a donor semen sample—once washed in the laboratory—inside the female uterus by cannula transfer. Thus, in this case, fertilization takes place in the Fallopian tubes, as if it were a natural pregnancy.
On the other hand, for IVF with donor sperm, the mature eggs are harvested from the ovary after ovulation induction, and then fertilized with donor sperm in the laboratory.
The fertilization step in IVF can be done by means of two different methods: standard IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). While the former involves placing a particular number of sperm in a plate with the oocyte, the latter consists in injecting a spermatozoon that has been previously selected directly inside the egg cell with the purpose of fertilizing it.
IVF embryos are cultured in the laboratory for no more than 6 days according to the Croatian Law. The next step is the embryo transfer to the maternal womb, so that embryo implantation takes place and therefore pregnancy occurs.
Requirements for sperm donation
The Croatian Law has established a series of requirements that every potential sperm donor should meet:
- Donors should act in an ethical and altruistic manner
- Passing a medical and psychological pre-screening is required to guarantee they are physically and mentally healthy
- Donor-conceived children have the right to know about their biological origin, which means that donor-identity disclosure is allowed
- Donors cannot get identifying information about the receiving couple, nor about the donor-conceived individual
- Recipients do not have access to identifying information about the donor
- A maximum of 3 children can be born from the same sperm donor
Even though having access to the donor identity is forbidden, the receiving couples can get identifying information about the donor in case the child suffers from a severe disease.